As we gear up for Washington Seminar here at the Jernigan Institute, we field lots of phone calls from you, our dedicated members, asking what you can do to lend a hand. In addition to recruiting members and getting involved in your community, you can help in a big way just by typing your name. That’s right; your name is all you need to do your part. We’ve created a We the People petition to get President Obama’s attention. In 2010, he promised to ensure equal access for people with disabilities, by issuing regulations that will apply the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to the web. While these regulations wouldn’t change the web directly, they will give guidance to webpage developers on how to make their sites accessible for all. You can find the text to the petition below. To sign the petition, go to the petition website. We have until February 11 to collect 100,000 signatures, so please spread the word.
On July 26, 2010, the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) addressing the obligation of public accommodations to provide websites that are accessible to individuals with disabilities was issued by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). At the time, you correctly observed that these proposed rules would be “the most important updates to the ADA since its original enactment.” Yet the release date of the actual rule proposal for revising the Title III regulations of the ADA, originally scheduled for January of 2012, has been extended until sometime in 2018, eight years beyond the issuance of the original ANPRM and at least a year after the end of your administration. Having originally taken a strong stand on the importance of these regulations, it seems that you now wish to wash your hands of them entirely.
Americans with disabilities have waited far too long for action on this crucial issue. The need for a robust regulation ensuring full and equal access to the websites of entities covered by the ADA for people with all types of disabilities is even more urgent today than it was over five years ago. Students at all education levels, adults seeking to acquire or retain employment, and other people with disabilities in all walks of life who are simply trying to handle the everyday tasks that are now routinely done on the internet such as accessing electronic health records, paying bills, conducting financial transactions, purchasing goods, making hotel reservations, and more are struggling. This is because many websites are not compatible with the screen reading technology, Braille displays, alternative input devices, and other technology to access Internet information used by people with disabilities. Nor is this a mere inconvenience to these Americans; it is a barrier to their education and employment. For example, the college graduation rate for people with disabilities is just thirty-four percent; inaccessible online technology undoubtedly contributes to this dismal statistic.
Most entities that do business on the Internet are not trying to exclude Americans with disabilities; they simply need guidance on how to make their websites accessible and comply with the law. Your administration’s continued failure to provide that guidance is irresponsible, and has severe adverse consequences, both for Americans with disabilities and for entities covered by the ADA. Furthermore, this outrageous delay is inconsistent with your often-stated commitment to the civil rights of all citizens, including those with disabilities. For these reasons, we, the undersigned, demand that you direct the United States Department of Justice to issue the proposed regulations, which have already been drafted, without further delay.